Welcome to v2.0 of our Canada/Alaska 2008 webpage. This version includes a lot more of the photos taken and separated into named folders for easier viewing.
It all began with a visit to an N.R.M.A. information night on a cold winter's night here in Canberra back in 2007, about one of their new 21 day guided tours planned for August/September 2008. Certainly being new to overseas travel, this particular tour included a lot of interesting places and highlights as well as a seven day cruise. From memory, we signed up that very night and then had to wait for the countdown clock to tick down to zero.
Canberra/Sydney (overnight in Sydney), Sydney/Los Angeles via Qantas, followed by Los Angeles/Seattle via Alaskan Airways. Welcome to jetlag. Not to mention Homeland Security. The first couple of days we spent on a few tours of Seattle, with our new tour buddies (2x bus loads of them), where we were quick to learn the "be early, don't be late" mantra of our tour guides, who must have felt like they were trying to herd stray cats. Maybe they should have taken a leaf out of Nicoletta's play book from our JoC 2011 ABC Tour "if you're late, call a cab, 'cause we won't be here". (wonder if she has changed her number yet?)
Some of the worthy moments during our couple of days here, were: 1). the Boeing assembly building tour 2). Macy's, which was somewhat underwhelming until we visited Macy's NYC in 2015 3). keep to the right when walking down a sidewalk 4). you quickly learn when to and when not to tip... more about tipping later 5). on a two-way street, look to the LEFT first, otherwise expect to wear a bus 6). Starbucks tastes like sh*t at the home of Starbucks; and 7). generally speaking, the American sense of humour is incompatible to the Australian version.
Victoria & the Butchart Gardens
Hello Canadia! And not a bloody mountain in sight. We had a fair amount of spare time here so we explored what we could of Victoria (the Capital of British Columbia if you didn't already know) on foot. Even found an Irish Pub (the Irish Times) which we used to educate ourselves in the art if tipping. If Victoria is anything to go by, Vancouver Island is certainly worthy of a longer stay and although the view of the Fairmont Empress Hotel has changed after a recent renovation, I'd be pretty certain that the Butchart Gardens will always be a magnificent showcase of horticultural excellence.
Noteworthy moments would be 1). French is always on one side of the Customs/Immigration Card, so don't use time of day as an excuse for not turning it over to look for the English version 2). If you are a good tipper, you will be remembered - weeks later 3). who would ever say the Butchart Gardens are a waste of time?.. fact is, you probably need half a day to see everything; and 4). Canadians are so Australian.
Canadian Rockies (including the Rocky Mountaineer)
This part of the tour covered a fair chunk of time with us starting off in Vancouver for a couple of days after crossing over from Vancouver Island soon after our Butchart Gardens visit so it's always good to know, that even when you are on the other side of the planet, something "Australia" always tends to pop-up, with even the distinctly Aussie accents of the staff on both Whistler Mountain and at Calgary Olympic park to add to those 'you're never far from home' moments.
After overnighting at party central, some place called Whistler, we boarded the Rocky Mountaineer for our two day rail journey out to Jasper, via a little place called Quesnel, where the supermarkets have store maps, room service is covered by nearly dressed staff and once in Jasper, we had to be wary of the rutting local Elk and Moose population. Earlier on I mentioned 2x busloads of fellow travellers. Can't quite give the exact numbers, however all but two seats on our Mountaineer carriage were used by our group, so we made up the numbers with a couple of honouree Aussies (Bob and Kathleen from Chicago) for the next two days.
When you think of the Canadian Rockies, most immediately think of picturesque scenes. It's nothing like that at all as it feels more like you are actually IN the picture. The place(s) are so spectacular and your mouth is so wide open, it's a wonder you don't swallow a bird.
So, from Jasper to Calgary, via Maligne Canyon, Medicine & Maligne Lakes, Athabasca Falls and Athabasca Glacier, Lake Louise, Moraine & Emerald Lakes, Johnston Canyon and Banff, one spent a lot of time looking and just saying a quiet "wow!"
Being confirmed landlubbers, this was going to be an interesting experience to say the least. All good, we are heading north, north to Alaska, via the nice and calm Inside Passage. *Travel tip - never believe that smooth/calm cruising hogwash if your friendly travel agent says anything about the "Inside Passage" unless they are actually talking about the carpets on the way to the bar. Because, if Sea State 8 is calm, I'd hate to see 'stormy'. One good thing about it was there were a lot less people hanging around the food trough at meal times. Oh, and we slept like bricks. So relaxing.
Cruising certainly has a lot going for it. Pretty sure I have prattled on about it before, so I'll spare you the pain of me mentioning it all again. Just Do It. And hire a Tux. Did I mention icebergs? When we arrived at the Hubbard Glacier and we had to travel through this, to get closer to the main attraction, the thought was pretty much - 'no way'. Turns out they weren't really icebergs worth worrying about, unless it had sharp edges. Now this is an iceberg, a small one, but an iceberg all the same.
Speaking of ice. Glaciers were a big part of this tour, with us getting up close to a really big one and actually walking on another so their colour was/is quite amazing (actually, the sound of the Hubbard was also amazing), with blue being the dominant colour and even though most.. no all, of the glaciers we have seen have been in fairly cloudy or inclement weather, so we have been quite lucky to see these natural beauties in the glorious bluest best.
Anyhoo, moving along to other cruise newsworthy moments. Whales. Everywhere. This little one, went under our littler boat, thank you very much. Sea Otters. Lots. Bald Eagles. Like sparrows, on every tree. Seals. To sleepy to care. Dogs. So excited. The views. Lots.
To wrap it all up, I've included a set of large panoramas from most of the places we visited on this trip and are best seen on the largest screen you can muster. Each panorama will have details on where the photo was taken and many also include the camera details on the bottom of the page.
*errors of grammar/spelling are of my doing. facts were correct at the time of our visit, September 2008.
Karen & Wayne
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